HBO Max's Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts special, which premiered on New Year's Day 2022, was a very emotional viewing experience for Potterheads. It instantly transported us back to our childhoods, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone first premiered in November 2001. But all the reminiscing has us wondering why things changed so much between the first and eighth movies. Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and the other kids' amazing adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry were undoubtedly shaped by the franchise's amazing first director, Chris Columbus, who helmed the first two installments (Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets) before stepping away from the series, but why did he leave?
Why Did Chris Columbus Leave the Harry Potter Films?
After stepping away from the Harry Potter series as director after Chamber of Secrets, Columbus served as executive producer of the third movie, Prisoner of Azkaban, before leaving the wizarding world altogether.
According to a November 2011 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Columbus stepped down because he was "emotionally and physically exhausted."
"Sorcerer's Stone took 160 days of shooting, which is ridiculously long," Columbus said. "And then, immediately after we stopped shooting, we started shooting Chamber of Secrets, which was another 160 days. That's roughly 320 days — not counting second unit — back-to-back shooting." He added that he "could barely speak" and felt "emotionally and physically exhausted." Taking care of one's mental health is absolutely a legitimate reason to leave a job! It's good he recognized his limits and knew when to step away.
Columbus also wanted to see his four kids more. "I wasn't seeing my kids, who were young at the time, growing up. I was missing dinners with them. I thought, 'I can't do another six, seven, eight years of this. My kids will grow up, and I'll never get to know them.'" His four children (Eleanor, 32; Brendan, 30; Violet, 28; and Isabella, 26), whom he shares with his wife, Monica Devereux, are all grown up now.
Who Directed the Harry Potter Movies After Chris Columbus Left?
Alfonso Cuarón was brought on to direct Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Columbus stayed on as a producer to still be a part of the project while spending time with his kids. "As a producer, I don't have to be there all the time," he told THR. "I can be on the set a few hours a day. I can sit in on certain visual effects meetings, but it means I can get home in time for dinner, to see my kids in the morning to go to school."
When filming ended, Columbus said his family was ready to go back home to the US. "They missed their friends, and so it felt like the logical time to say goodbye."
Mike Newell directed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and David Yates directed Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and the two-part Deathly Hallows.
Would Chris Columbus Direct Future Harry Potter Movies?
Just because Columbus said goodbye to Harry Potter doesn't mean his love for the franchise and its characters has dimmed. In fact, he said he would be willing to come back to direct a film adaption of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
"A version of Cursed Child with Dan, Rupert, and Emma at the right age, it's cinematic bliss," he told THR. "To able to actually see these adult actors now back in these roles? Oh, yeah. It would be amazingly fun to make that film — or two films."
Did you hear that, Warner Brothers? Because Potterheads are definitely on board!